Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 29

A

By MARLA HARDEE MILLING

s 15-year-old Virginia Ward heads down
a trail at Craggy Gardens on the North
Carolina section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, it's easy to realize she's someone
you'd want by your side if you were lost
in the woods.
She knows all the plants and trees
by name as well as their benefits-such as jewel
weed, which can soothe poison ivy. She points to
the bright red blossoms of bee balm-its salve a
wise choice for infections and wounds-and she
talks about the intoxicating nectar of Mountain
Angelica.
But for more than just recognizing and knowing the attributes of plants, you'd want to be by
her side because of her familiarity with this rugged
natural world, her calm, friendly assurance, and
her bravery that's been honed as she's dropped
off dozens and even hundreds of feet below rocky
cliffs with the security of a rappelling rope and
carabiners to keep her in check.
Since the age of 12, she's been a devoted summer volunteer working with Blue Ridge Parkway
plant ecologist Dr. Chris Ulrey to monitor critically endangered plants, especially Geum radiatum,
also known as spreading avens.
The delicate yellow flower looks like a buttercup, but Virginia says it has a stem that can get to
about a foot in length.
"Its leaves are similar to Galax, but a little more
lobed on the edges," she says. "There are only
14 known locations in the entire world where it
grows and all 14 are in North Carolina or Tennessee, or on the border. We measure and record the
lengths and widths and flower counts.

MARLA HARDEE MILLING

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

29



Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020

Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 3
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 4
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 5
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 6
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 7
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 8
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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 12
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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 21
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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 24
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 25
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 26
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 27
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 28
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 29
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 30
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 31
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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 40
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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - Cover4
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